To prevent injury and increase flexibility, are you supposed to stretch before or after your workout? That is a very good question! The answer is both. Before running or working out, it is important to warm up muscles and get more oxygen to them. A great warm-up is jumping jacks for a few minutes and then a brief stretch of each of the major muscles.
After running or working out, a good stretching routine will help to remove lactic acid from the muscle. This, in turn, reduces muscle soreness, which promotes better flexibility. You can also perform your stretching exercises while resting between lifts during your strength training.
How to design a flexibility programme
A well-rounded flexibility programme includes at least one exercise for each of the major muscle groups. It is especially important to select exercises that are problem areas. The workout should take roughly 10 – 15 minutes depending on the number of stretches performed.
The stretch should be held for a maximum of 30 seconds without pain and repeated anywhere from three to four times. Flexibility exercises should be performed after a moderate or vigorous physical activity session and are an important part of the warm-up or cool-down phase in an exercise programme or routine.
Here are a number of stretches that you can add in your flexibility programme.
Cross body stretch
This stretch stretches the outside of the deltoid and arm. Repeat three to four times at regular intervals.
Place the left arm across the chest and with the right hand on the left elbow gently pull it across the body. Maintain the position for 10 seconds. After this, repeat on the other side. Do not stretch until you feel pain.
Overhead shoulder stretch
Repeat this stretch three to five times to get a good stretch around the shoulders and upper back.
Hold the hands together with the arms elevated above the head, pushing the arms upwards and backwards. When the arms are fully extended, hold the position for 10 seconds. Do not stretch until you feel pain.
Swimmer’s shoulder stretch
This is a stretch to test and challenge shoulder flexibility. Repeat between three and five times for a good stretch. You can also perform this stretch against a wall.
Lie on the floor on your side and place the arm flush against the floor above the head. Press as close to the floor as possible. Hold for 10 seconds and then release. As with the other stretches, don’t stretch until you feel pain.
Forward neck stretch
The forward neck stretch will help in increasing the flexibility of the trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. This is a great warm-up stretch before performing back exercises.
Keeping the back straight, slowly lower the chin towards the chest and hold the position for 10 seconds. Then slowly bring the head up to a neutral position. Stop stretching if you feel any pain.
Sideways neck stretch
The sideways neck stretch is a great warm-up or cool-down stretch to perform before or after a workout. Take four to five seconds for each direction of the movement and repeat in each direction five to ten times.
Stand up straight with the arms relaxed at the sides of the body. Slowly lean the head over to one side and then hold for 10 seconds before bringing the head up to your starting position.
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